How Rachel’s Goodsir became My Fair Lady

agnes goodsirIn only 90 years, we have come full circle where we can once again be shocked by seeing a “Girl With Cigarette”.  Captured as a nouvelle societal attitude receptor of its day, Australian born artist Agnes Goodsir (ca. 1925) painted “Girl With Cigarette”, oil on canvas. It is part of the Bendigo Art Gallery permanent collection (Bequest of Amy E Bayne, 1945).

Agnes Noyes Goodsir was born on 18 June, 1864 in Portland, Victoria, one of eleven children of David James Cook Goodsir, Commissioner of Customs at Melbourne and Elizabeth Archer (née Tomlins). Her early art training began with Arthur T. Woodward at the Bendigo School of Mines and Industries (1898-1899) and in 1899 some of her work was raffled in Bendigo to partly finance her study in Paris.

Goodsir’s work showed strong composition and technique, favouring oils over watercolours. From ca. 1912 Goodsir shuttled between London and Paris, where she attended the Académie Delécluse; Académie Julian; and the Académie Colarossi. Her work was acclaimed and exhibited at the New Salon, the Salon des Indépendants and the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris as well as at the Royal Academy and the Royal Institute in London.

Despite turning out a large number of still life and interiors, Goodsir’s forté was portraiture, including those of: Katharine Goodson, Leo Tolstoy, Ellen Terry, Banjo Paterson, Bertrand Russell, Dame Edith Walker, Countess Pinci and Benito Mussolini.

Finally settling at 18 rue de l’Odéon in Paris in 1921, Goodsir lived with her beloved companion Rachel Dunn, who was depicted in several of Goodsir’s paintings, including  The Chinese Skirt (1923),  The Letter (1926) and Morning Tea (1925) and Girl with Cigarette (1925) – featured above.

Goodsir died in Paris, France on 18th August, 1939.

  • Her paintings were left to her companion Rachel, who sent some 40 to Agnes’s family in Australia and others to Australian galleries.
  • The Goodsir Scholarship of the Bendigo Art Gallery is named in memory of her.

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